Edible Adjectives

Ma’ayan Plaut is a bit of a multi-hyphenate. In addition to being a blogger and a chef (and a personal friend!), she’s quite handy with a camera. She also seems to know just about everybody, meaning she’s definitely someone you’d want on your side were you to try to win a massive round of six degrees of separation. Ma’ayan found a way to merge some of these interests with the adjective sandwich, which was developed while she was in college and working behind the sandwich counter at the campus grocery store/cafe. The premise of the adjective sandwich is simple: Either ask or email with your adjective; likes/dislikes/things you can’t eat; vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous; your tolerance for spicy things. Ma’ayan will then come up with a sandwich that she feels most fits your adjective. We’re not talking your average BLT or peanut butter and jelly here. Adjective sandwiches are filled with all kinds of ingredients, and they’re unique, too: As the website notes, two people can submit the same adjective and receive completely different sandwiches. I gave Ma’ayan my own adjective and will be sure to share it with you once she comes up with my sandwich over the next couple of weeks. But before then, I emailed Ma’ayan a few sandwich-related questions, which you can find with her answers below.

Is there any particular sandwich ingredient (bread, cheese, vegetables, etc.) that you’re willing to splurge on?
Oh, this is a really good question. I think I’m probably most likely to splurge on cheese, since it’s diverse and can really change the flavor profile of the whole sandwich (or you can theme a whole sandwich around it!). Cheese is one of the most versatile ingredients I know, and there are SO many options out there. I haven’t even started delving into complex cheeses in some of these sandwiches yet. I think in a close second would be quality imported ingredients, like European spreads or smoked Italian meats or amazing pickled things from a pickle shop, or good spices from the Mediterranean or Indian to make interesting rubs for meats…

What’s next for Adjective Sandwich? Opening a shop? Going global? Adjectives with adverbs (boldly inspiring, wonderfully surreptitious, etc.)?
Hard question. I’ve worked in food service enough that I know the difficulties and hardships of owning and running a shop. I am in the process of drafting a cookbook on sandwich theory (you know there are no books on sandwich theory other than Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft cookbook? It kills me… but that book serves as a huge affirmation and inspiration to me. I highly recommend it.)

So, in a perfect world, I see it as:

– a website that gets requests from any/everywhere in the world (it’s gradually getting that right now; I had a request from someone I briefly met at a conference in SF, and I’ve gotten two requests via the submissions form on Tumblr of people I don’t know), and from my descriptions, it could legitimately inspire someone to make that sandwich on their own;

– a compilation cookbook/book on sandwich theory in the future; and

– a creative force behind a potential restaurant (my role would be more as a planner/consultant, I don’t necessarily want to run it…)

Also, while adjectives tend to be the main requests I get for sandwiches, I am not opposed to nouns or phrases or ideas. Adjective tends to be all-encompassing and easiest to explain to people (this is a pretty bizarre concept, if you think about it).

If the OED itself were to ask for a sandwich, what would you serve it?
Love this question! Ummmm… let’s try this:

Honey oat bread, toasted, with a spread of dijon mustard on one side and mashed avocado with salt and pepper on the other side. Pile on mustard side paper-thin slices of honey ham, crumbled cranberry Stilton, paper-thin slices of black pepper turkey, micro herbs tossed with a squeeze of lemon and olive oil, topped with the avocado-laced bread.

And that might change tomorrow. It all depends on what I associate with the word today and what I’m thinking about as an ingredient today. It’s complicated.

What’s the key to the perfect sandwich, in your mind?
Two things: balance and texture. Balance refers most to the combination and proportion of ingredients, and texture refers to how the ingredients relate to each other. It’s the reason a grilled cheese sandwich can be the most heavenly thing in the world: the cheese plus bread, in those two very contrasting state, coexisting.

I’m hungry just reading these answers. A big thanks to Ma’ayan for answering my questions. Find all the sandwiches Ma’ayan has created on The Adjective Sandwich, then be sure to submit your own adjective!

Sandwich photo by Ma’ayan Plaut.

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